One visit to LANWR and you will know why our Friends organization cares so deeply about the incredible and unique diversity of plants and wildlife found here. The refuge is located in deep south Texas overlooking beautiful Laguna Madre Bay with panoramic views of South Padre Island on the eastern horizon. The refuge landscape retains its historic wildness, including extensive wetlands, beaches, dunes, tidal flats, coastal prairie, savannah, brushlands and lomas. A five square mile area next to Laguna Madre Bay known as the Bayside Resaca National Natural Landmark, exemplifies the best known example of the unique resaca system (old meander channels of the Rio Grande) that occurs in south Texas.
An impressive 410 species of birds, 45 mammals, 44 kinds of reptiles, 130 butterfly and 450 plant species have been recorded here. Eight federally listed endangered and threatened animal species and twenty-three state listed species depend on the vanishing habitats that are preserved here at Laguna Atascosa NWR, including ocelots, northern aplomado falcons, brown pelicans, Texas horned lizard, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.
The mission of Friends of Laguna Atascosa is to protect, support and enhance the refuge. As a 501(3)c non-profit organization, we raise funds, administer grants, sponsor educational outreach activities, and are politically active in the interest of the refuge and regional wildlife. Friends receive funding through memberships, grants, sponsorships, and donations, 100% of which goes toward wildlife conservation.
No wonder so many concerned people like YOU (nature lovers, conservationists, wildlife watchers, volunteers, birders, photographers, outdoor enthusiasts, ranchers, educators, anglers, hunters, business people and more) have come together to support Friends of LANWR.
Please Join Us!
Friends Statement on the Proposed Border Wall at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
The Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (FLANWR) is opposed to the proposed 18 foot
high and 3-mile long border wall through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (SANWR), located
approximately 7 miles south of Alamo and 50 miles west of LANWR. Since 1997, our mission has been
to support and enhance the wildlife conservation endeavors of the refuge. We believe that the ecological
and social impacts from construction of this proposed border wall segment have the potential to
negatively affect Santa Ana NWR and the surrounding communities, including the Laguna Atascosa
The border the U.S. shares with Mexico is about 2,000 miles long. A border wall of different types of
fence segments currently totals about 670 miles. Customs and Border Protection spent $2.4 billion
completing these 670 mile segments from 2006 to 2009, an average of over $3.5 million per mile.
Proposed border wall construction on the levee directly behind the Santa Ana visitor center and
maintenance facilities could block refuge staff, visitors and many wildlife species from access to the
majority of the 2,088 acre refuge along the Rio Grande River, including birding/nature trails, observation
tower and the canopy walk. Santa Ana NWR is one of the top bird-watching destinations in the U.S.,
hosting more than 400 species of birds. Known as the “crown jewel” of the National Wildlife Refuge
system, the Santa Ana NWR attracts an estimated 160,000 visitors per year1 and contributes substantially
to the $463 million annual ecotourism economy in the Rio Grande Valley. For most out of town visitors,
the Santa Ana Refuge is one of the primary reasons for visiting the Valley. Therefore, reduced visitation at
the Santa Ana NWR translates to decreased ecotourism in the Valley, which will affect other natural areas,
including the Laguna Atascosa NWR.
Ecologically, Santa Ana NWR provides habitat for a myriad of subtropical riparian species of plants and
animals. Historically, it was inhabited by federally listed species like the endangered jaguarundi and
ocelot, and today is essential for efforts underway to recover the U.S. ocelot population. Ocelot
conservation and management is one of the highest priorities for the Laguna Atascosa NWR, and
maintaining a natural, barrier free river corridor is essential to connect U.S. and Mexico ocelot
populations in order to increase genetic diversity.
The hasty decision to construct a segment of the border wall through Santa Ana NWR is predicated on the
fact that it is already U.S. government property, meaning acquisition is not subject to lengthy and costly
legal disputes currently or likely involved in acquisition of privately owned border property, which makes
up the majority border lands. To fast- track construction, which may begin as early as this November, the
Administration is planning to waive standard public input procedures, environmental impact studies, and
compliance with all standard procedure environmental laws.
FLANWR contends that before any further construction of any segment of the
border wall begins:
- all immigration reform strategy alternatives be exhaustively examined by legislators
- a complete legislatively approved national immigration reform policy be established
- a complete legislatively approved border wall plan be established if border wall construction is
part of the overall approved immigration reform plan
- all environmental protections and public input processes normally applied to projects of this
nature, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, and the 2008 amendment to the border
wall legislation that required Homeland Security to consult with local stakeholders to
“minimize the impact on the environment, culture, commerce and quality of life” be upheld and
completed as well
- all pending and potential legal rights to construct any approved border wall plan segment
through private property be resolved as a condition before any construction begins, and
- all funding for the plan be legislatively approved and secured before any construction begins
To do otherwise, and proceed with construction of this proposed 3 mile segment of border wall
through Santa Ana NWR, will be ecologically devastating, wastefully expensive, financially
impactful to the RGV tourism economy, and make no positive contribution to U.S. immigration
reform. It will be an unconscionable and unnecessary overreach of the executive branch leading
to nothing more than a ‘mission accomplished’ photo opportunity paraded in front of a wasteful
$10+ million backdrop and flaunted as a campaign promise fulfilled!
Please join us and other organizations and individuals in opposition to border wall construction
in Santa Ana NWR.